Artwork Detail

Le grand atelier (The Large Studio)
French, b. Portugal, 1908–1992
Oil on canvas
51 1/4 x 64 1/8 "
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard K. Weil, 1961
WU 3960
© Maria Helena Vieira da Silva / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Maria Helena Vieira da Silva was one of a new wave of painters in Paris exploring abstraction after World War II. Her postwar paintings generally evoke unidentifiable architectural and urban spaces. These ambiguous locales, which employ the structure of the Cubist grid and its monochromatic palette, were often seen as alluding to the destruction of previously held aesthetic values and certainties. The suggestion of both construction and dissolution of form in "Le grand atelier" is a key characteristic of "art informel", the term coined by French critic Michel Tapié for the formal and thematic experimentation of postwar abstraction. With its large-scale format common to much postwar European and American abstraction, "Le grand atelier" refers to architecturally articulated spaces in the real world, specifically that of the artist’s studio, yet the push and pull of rectangular planes of varying sizes and repeating, vacillating structures gives the painting a sense of dynamism that evokes themes of impermanence prevalent in the wider postwar environment. [Exhibition label, 2015]